Students brave frigid temperatures each year for the  Outing Clubâs annual Rail Jam.

How to Survive North Country Winters


Madeline Hogan ’20

North Country winter in an outsider’s mind seems to be nothing but white —white snow, white sidewalks, white ice, whiteouts—a lack of color that some do not take the time to see.

Attending St. Lawrence University way up in Canton, New York, came as a shock to my high school peers who chose the South, simply to escape Massachusetts winters. It takes a certain type of person to choose Canton, and for that exact reason, a tight-knit community is formed. It is one that braves the winters together and embraces the cold and icy walks to class that last from November through April.

Survival skills are key, as some do not want to face the wind and snow that makes the walk to class or the dining hall so exhilarating.

Survival Tip #1: Coats, more coats and layers than you could ever fathom. Pack every single one. Layers are key, even though someone may appear to be a walking marshmallow, they are much warmer than someone that appears “fashionable” in a lightweight jacket.

Survival Tip #2: Find your nature. Devise your own plan to brave the cold, or have no plan at all and see where the frigid wind takes you. Start with the simple stuff. By graduation, every Laurentian is battle-tested and ready for winter anywhere.

Survival Tip #3: Make memories. Yes, they may be cold ones, but do things that you will never forget. Winter is certainly not my favorite season, yet I have learned to love it. I have taken at least five trips to Whiteface and skied with friends down the icy slopes. I have even come to enjoy the long, freezing, walk to Appleton Arena, a warm hot chocolate in my hands and friends by my side.

Survival Tip #4: Attitude. Do not let four consecutive days of torrential downpours or blizzards stop you from exploring and remembering all the positive, sunny reasons you decided to spend four years in what seems to be the arctic tundra. White is not a lack of color but a mixture of all colors—a secret rainbow that provides us with spectacular bright reflections, sporting events, snowball fights, and an abundance of fresh water to the region.

Without the sub-zero temperatures and a couple of feet of snow SLU would not be the same. That was confirmed for me with a cherished memory of my team’s 2018 holiday card. All 29 of us on the St. Lawrence riding team led a beautiful horse through the golf course to find the perfect winter scene for our card. At 12 degrees Fahrenheit, we wore just our holiday sweaters to keep us warm. It was the comaraderie and team spirit that made the cold air less bitter. We were not complaining, but smiling and laughing about the lengths we would go to get the perfect shot, proving to me that with the right people and the right attitude, you not only survive, but thrive in a North Country winter.


Madeline Hogan is a psychology major from South Hamilton, Massachusetts.